Poem — NaPoWriMo: It’s Never Just a Game

The day 16 poem prompt of the 2018 National Poetry Writing Month challenges me to write a poem that prominently features the idea of play.

My poem is about my memory of a game we played as children – a game still played today, albeit differently. It has been played for over a hundred years by boys and girls, now also by men and women. Essentially, it is street or vacant lot baseball played with a broomstick for a bat, bases like the manhole cover or the flag pole, and most often a rubber ball.

My gang used all sorts of balls including wiffle balls of various sizes. No one wore gloves or any form of protective gear. Our classic favorite was to use those small plastic practice golf balls with all the holes in them to increase the challenge. They could bounce off any window or person with no damage. No coaches, no adults, highly flexible rules, and we worked out our disagreements without paying lawyers.

My poem is this old fart’s memories of playing the game and living totally for the moment, for the game, to be as good as we could be, and to have fun for the sake of play.

We used handles cut from broom sticks or mops. I do not recall anyone buying a ball, but it would not surprise me to learn that the ones we used were found, or “found” (as in the bottom of dad’s golf bag). The first commercially produced stickball bat came out in the early 1950’s and sold for 89 cents. Today, you can buy a high-tech, Easton T10 Thunderstick stickball bat for $50.00.

One of the problems today is that it has become difficult to find a good wooden broom or mop handle not being used, and games like that have fallen out of favor. However, I have included a photo and video about the game. In both cases, commercial bats are used.

It’s Never Just a Game

I was in the game that day
when it was a hot midsummer afternoon
when we played in the Courtright elementary school yard
when Jimmy Lipinski hit a double off of Joe Mullins’ chest
when time outs were for injury or just to pee.

I was in the game that day
when the fight broke out between Balochi and the new kid
Smitty was new and wanted us to play by New Jersey rules,
Balochi and Smitty became close friends and grew old together
and we learned to play by Jersey rules, East End rules, and league rules,
but mostly we made up the rules based on many things.

I was in the game that day
when Teddy tripped on second base and broke his nose
when the Daniel’s kid at shortstop lit a cigarette in the third
when the school janitor came and ran us all off or he would call the cops,
when we vandalized the school cuz the Janitor was a dick,
when I got my first hit, and when I hit my last.

I was in the game that day
when Lipinski made his behind the back flyball catch
when the worst player on the team hit a grand slam
when cuts and scrapes and twisted ankles were part of growing up,
when it started to rain that day and we played on anyway,
when the game was just the game, and both sides always won.

I left the game that day
when we walked away cuz it was getting dark
when we were thinking of what in life came next
when we thought there were better things to do,
when we walked away one last time
from the game we all so loved.

Let’s go play some stickball.

(Bill Reynolds 4/16/2018)

Look both ways as you play the game.
When at bat, mind you, hit the gaps.

Click link to National Poetry Writing Month

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Poem — NaPoWriMo: When I had the hammer

The day 14 poem prompt of the 2018 National Poetry Writing Month challenges me to write entries for an imaginary dream dictionary. I was to pick one or more of the following words and write about what it means to dream of these things: Teacup, Hammer, Seagull, Ballet, slipper, Shark, Wobbly table, Dentist, Rowboat.

I really don’t get today’s assignment, but my goal is to write to the prompts. I decided to write what a hammer means in my dream, and then a little poetic ditty using hammer metaphorically within the dream. I’ve written too much about dreams lately not to at least attempt this.

When I had the hammer

The hammer is control in my dream
My dreams are always challenges
Problems to be solved, difficulties
My hammer is my courage and power to manage.

In my dream, I walked through four rooms.

In the childhood room, I could not lift my hammer
It was too big and too heavy and too confusing
All adults in the room had hammers, no child did
Some people had several. Someone carried my hammer.

In the young adult room, I struggled to move my hammer
Some days I could drag it, on other days I needed someone to help me
I tried to lift my hammer and to carry it as others seemed to
Several others were burdened as they carried many hammers.

In the middle age room, I carried my hammer with pride
I had a bag full of hammers because I carried hammers of others
…this I did with shameful pride,
…never admitting to the fear and burden of so many hammers
Confused, I wanted to give others their hammers to carry,
…yet, I wanted to continue to carry them.

In the room of seniors, I understood the hammers
I carried mine, yet asked for help when my hammer was too heavy
Some days I helped others carry theirs, some days I carried none
But with each passing day, my hammer got heavier,
…and I knew that soon
…I would have to give my hammer away.

(Bill Reynolds, 4/14/2018)

Look both ways to find your hammer.
Use it carefully as you mind the gaps.

 

Click link to National Poetry Writing Month

Poem – NaPoWriMo: Frist Weakened Then Dead

The day 13 poem prompt of the 2018 National Poetry Writing Month challenges me to write a poem in which the words or meaning of a familiar phrase are up-ended.

I chose the phrase whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. My upending is in the poem’s title. Besides the prompt, my inspiration for this poem stems from reading Christopher Hitchens’ Vanity Fair article regarding the maxim, and the entire series he wrote during his tribulation with cancer.

Indeed, successful resistance often strengthens. That is the principle of inoculations against disease, doing regular exercise, preserving through addictions, or recovery from mental setbacks such as depression. The problem arises from the universal application of the maxim, no matter who first said it.

First, it may kill you (and someday something indeed will). Secondly, things (like whatever) can and do leave you weaker, not always stronger. In my opinion, despite having taken the shot against shingles, I contracted the illness because I had been ill repeatedly over months and my immune system had been severely weakened. And there is the age thing (it’s not just a number). Being ill did not kill me, but it did make me weaker, more vulnerable, and not a bit stronger. Shingles does not make you any stronger either.

Here is a good article about Hitch’s Vanity Fair piece. And the poem…

 

First Weakened Then Dead

I am my body and my mind
‘tis me nature to be friendly and kind.

Then you entered me, quite uninvited
You’re a vile corruption of cells divided.

You took my strength, my pride, my hair
Weakened what I am, if you ever care.

We both suffer, but it’s you we must kill
In my losing battle to save my will.

Die I must, that’s what they say
But I hope to find some other way.

(Bill Reynolds, 4/13/2018)

I’m a Kelly Clarkson fan, especially since watching her coach on the TV show, The Voice. I’ve included her 2012 hit in the interest of leaving you, literally, on a positive note.

 

From birth to death, look both ways.
Mind the gaps and the cleaver maxims.
Even mine.

Click link to National Poetry Writing Month

Poem – NaPoWriMo: When THAT Happens…

The day 11 poem prompt of the 2018 National Poetry Writing Month challenge was for me to write a poem that addresses the future. I was to answer these the questions: “What does y(our) future provide? What is your future state of mind? If you are a citizen of the “union” that is your body, what is your future “state of the union” address?”

I came up with a slightly sarcastic inventory, or catalogue, poem that gives this a septuagenarian’s take on future thinking. I strive to be (and some say I am) a very right here, right now person. My take on this is also male, but women may find commonality with or without small word changes.

When THAT Happens…

When it takes all day to do whatever it was.
When you see wrinkles that have always been there
When all your futures are in your past.
When no one tells you not to run when you are running.
When the future is like the playoffs and you hope to be at least be a wildcard.
When you always take the elevator.
When a young lady offers you her seat, and you take it.
When you allow extra time for everything and end up late.
When you google childhood friends and end up reading the obits page.
When a day off means no doctor appointments.
When young ladies think you’re harmless, and they’re right.
When a middle-age lady says you remind her of her father, or worse, grandpa.
When they stop asking what you do for a living.
When living is what you do for a living.
When even a bad memory is good sign.
When your future state of mind may be homeless.
When your body is like the movie, As Good As It Gets.
When a pain means you moved something.
When those old people turn out to be younger than you.
When sex makes you think of words like dysfunction and prostheses.
When a new tattoo is major surgery, and an old one is a Rorschach Test.
When you been there, done that, got scars to prove it
…but you can’t remember what the hell you were talking about.
When young poets talk about the future and you write a memoir.
When your memories are all in black and white.
When all your friends say, “I remember when…” and you don’t.

(Bill Reynolds. 4/11/2018)

Some of us have more past than future, but we look both ways.
Mind the gaps, ignore the aches.

Click link to National Poetry Writing Month

A War of Two Lives

Battle on, both day and night.

Do I sleep a better day, when
Fitful dreams fill my nights?
With me loosing to all the fights,
Why so many battles then?

Waken me now from this pit.
Within this darkness is my dream
Inside I scream for fear and fit
Of all my horrors not yet seen.

Sleep brings me help, a welcome rest.
Dream from this life of daily test.
Rest I shall, to pass two trials,
One for day, the other at night.

Wake or sleep, I live to fight.

(Bill Reynolds, 2/25/2018)

Dream On (– Aerosmith — )

Look two ways, both day and night.
Mind the gaps, cuz there’s the fright.

A Memory: The Silence of Darkness

A Memory: The Silence of Darkness

It was a cold northeastern Pennsylvania night. I don’t recall the day of the week, or even the year, but the season was tucked into that idiom wrongly called, the dead of winter. There’s nothing dead about it.

I was in my teens and still living with my parents. It was late night and snow had covered the ground one day in the early nineteen-sixties. While night, the reflections from the snow allowed me to see everything, although it looked like a blue-tinted black and white photograph.

While all years of my life were important, those teen years are prominent memories. I still recall how I felt then, but now it’s hard to describe. I’ll never feel like that again. The wonderful adjectives of youth applied to me: vital, vigorous, and energetic; yet so did lazy, horny, rebellious, and impulsive. I would not say pensive or thoughtful. Yet, there was that one night.

 

As I walked through deep snow above my ankles, a powdery white mattress was laid out around me in all directions. The white snow was tinted cobalt blue by the moon-lit night sky. None of the snow was marked by footsteps or car tires. The blanket was pristine. The cemetery across the street was a charming and peaceful sight. I loved the sight of the snow, the reflection of street lights with a wintery halo, the contrast of red brick buildings with lines of white where snow landed. Even boarded-up windows seemed fitting to this natural artistic sight. What I saw made me feel good. I was happy, but thoughtful about what I saw.

If anyone saw me, they might assume I was lonely. I was not. Never. While my teen years presented me with daily challenges, feeling lonely wasn’t one of them. Even back then, I treasured my alone time. I have searched for more nights like that one, but I will never discover such a night again. Nature’s art is often so fleeting.

I may have been troubled by any one of the issues I thought life changing. Today, I recall few of those traumatic teeny-bopper problems. But, I can still visualize the night. While I have long since been free of my adolescent burdens, I remember. I didn’t feel cold. I felt both my pending freedom and a connectedness to my surrounding, to the night, and to the silence. And to the darkness, the light, the snow, and a sweet silence only night offers.

I was wearing plain old brown leather oxford shoes and white socks. My pants were a bit too short and much too snug: a style of the times. Adults thought my hair too long. It was a little greasy, and it hung down to cover part of my face. I didn’t wear a hat. My outer layer was a hand-me-down, black, Navy-surplus pea coat – unbuttoned and hanging open. The collar was up.

As I picture that night, I feel my experience. That not-to-be-forgotten night was like a photograph taken with my eyes and ears, sensed with my tongue’s taste buds. I could smell the clean crisp aroma of the night air. It is imprinted in my memory: a serene moment, fifty-some years ago. A semi-normal teenager, I realized that something remarkable was happening around me. I liked it and I wanted to share it with you.

The day’s white powder parted like a soft curtain as my feet gently led me forward. Sidewalks, streets, and any surfaces open to the sky were topped with the blueish flakes. No cars passed. The plows would not be out until early next morning.

Months before this night, trees had lost their leaves. Now, white fluff-covered bare branches stretched skyward like arms reaching to catch descending flakes. Evergreens bore much thicker and fuller sparkling white coats over their needles, a weight they endured with their strong, flexible, down-sloping boughs. I sensed a soft chill as a gentle breeze brushed the powder from trees onto me.

As snow clouds passed, I saw the clear night sky of spiritual proportions. A nearly-full moon illuminated the earth with light reflected upward by snow. Even with the light in the sky, billions of stars floated above me, while below them the sheen of fresh powder glistened. I was so young, yet I intuited the unimaginable enormity of what was around me. I could sense the sheer winter-night beauty of it all. I felt comfort in that notable moment. The night and the silence were etching a memory no artist or photographer could duplicate.

The silence was purposeful and reasoned. A quiet so intense the night air was a sharp penetrating stillness that muted other sounds. All was perfectly still. No movement, not even a hush. It was an absolute quiet: a silence so powerful I imagined intense peacefulness within me.

I stopped. Didn’t move for a long time. I listened for sounds of anything, silent sounds. I heard nothing but silence itself. Very still, breathing shallow, listening intently to what was the most peaceful moment of my life as my personal Sounds of Silence came from nature. I was with my friend Darkness, where I felt destined to be. I experienced sensual pleasure in the absolute beauty of that cold winter night.

I saw silence in the stillness as nothing moved. The world had stopped. I tasted tranquility as the clear, dry night-air slid over my tongue. As the still coolness flowed into my nose with its chilled crisp fragrance, I smelled a fresh aroma only nature could provide to a young mind open to such images. I have aged. But, this memory remains set in the mind of a teenage boy.

Slowly, I started to walk a bit farther. Then stopped again. I knew this was exceptional. Then I walked more, and I stopped again. I do not recall walking away or going home. The memory leaves me standing there, taking it in.

I didn’t know that this memory would be discovered and retrieved by my muse over half a century later. Said she, “Up now, Lad. And write in yer book, before ‘tis lost again in the disorganized gaps of your mind.”

If you have no time for the video now, please come back to watch it. It’s worth it.

Live in the present, but look both ways,
to the past for who you were, and to the future for who you’ll be.
Mind the gaps, but fill in where you can.

Am I Too Old?

I see my reality very differently

Am I too old?

How old is old enough?
am I too old to feel young?
am I too old to run and hide?
am I too old to care?

How old is old enough?
am I too old to want to know?
am I too old to love someone?
am I too old to care?

How old is old enough?
am I too old to feel you near?
am I too old to call you babe?
am I too old to care?

How old is old enough?
am I too old to dance with you?
am I too old to share your passion?
am I too old to care?

I am not yet old enough,
so dance me to end of time.
Still I see the fairies dance,
for your love is always mine.

by bill reynolds 7/5/2017

To live long and prosper, look both ways and mind the gaps.

Forever Young!